The White House on Wednesday announced the creation of the American Climate Corps, which plans to recruit 20,000 people to undertake conservation, energy and wildland fire work across the country.

Based on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps program, the Corps will be a a "multi-agency effort" offering apprenticeships and service opportunities in a number of areas including wildland firefighting, building renewable energy projects, and restoring coastal wetlands, according to John Podesta, senior adviser to President Biden for clean energy innovation and implementation.

As part of the effort, the already existing AmeriCorps and the Forest Service signed a five-year, $15 million agreement to recruit 80 young adults next year to engage in wildland fire prevention and reforestation efforts. They will be paid $15 an hour and receive lodging, clothing, a living allowance and health benefits, according to a press release.

The departments of Labor, Interior and Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will pursue similar partnerships, the White House said. AmeriCorps, an independent agency that oversees several federal volunteer work programs, also plans to create a new hub supporting the initiative.

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The paid service opportunities will generally be for six months or a year, Podesta told Agri-Pulse in an interview. The White House is also hoping the AmeriCorps CEO will expand Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, which can help AmeriCorps volunteers repay their student loans, to American Climate Corps members.

"There's a strong signal coming, both from the need to to do this work and the opportunity that young people particularly feel to be part of the solution on climate change," Podesta said. "So we anticipate that this will build and grow."

The Department of Energy is also providing $10 million in grants toward career skill training programs that provide industry-related certifications to install energy efficient building technologies. The Interior Department will put $15 million toward expanding the Indian Youth Service Corps, which focuses on land conservation efforts.

Governors from five states — Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah — announced on Wednesday that they would create their own state-level Climate Corps programs. California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington currently operate similar programs. 

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